History of the Coldstream Guards

The History of the Coldstream Guards during the Napoleonic Wars

1n 1793, Pitt the Younger (who despised Napoleon until his death bed) decided to join the anti-French alliance against Napoleon and, the Guards regiments were mobilized for war. Subsequently, the grenadier battalions of each regiment were brought together to form an elite force and this eventually became the Coldstream Guards. A company of light troops was later added and a battalion was formed from this mix. They would soon see action against Napoleon Bonaparte.

They saw their first action in war, naturally against the French, in northern France. The Coldstream Guards went on to take part in battles at Valenciennes, Lincelles and, the siege of Dunkirk. They fought with no little skill. Continuing their posting in Northern Europe, they remained in Holland until their return to England in 1795.

The Coldstream Guards 1799-1807

Called back to Holland in 1799, the Guards distinguished themselves with action at Bergen, Alkmaar and Helder. There then followed a period of frustrating travel and inaction for the Guards. In 1800 they sailed for Vigo but where re-directed to Egypt whereby in 1801 they fought in the victory at Aboukir in 1801. Upon the success they returned to England and, there followed two expeditions to Northern Europe (Bremen and Demark) in which they saw no action.

Peninsular Campaign 1809-1814

This is probably were the Guards achieved their greatest renown. They took part in a long series of actions under the leadership of Wellington. They fought nobly at Coimbra and the River Douro. This led them to be placed near the centre of the line in Wellington's army at Talavera. Here, they launched a ferocious counter attack on the French and gained the praise of-the normally taciturn-Wellington.

As the battle turned in the Peninsular, the Coldstream Guards were instrumental in pursuing and forcing Massena and the French back towards the Pyrenees. They fought at Ciudad Rodrigo and at Badajos. At Salamanca, they would win high praise from Wellington due to their defence of a key position. However, stalwart defence turned into blazing attack at the siege of San Sebastian. The Coldstreamers were the first unit into San Sebastian and eventually they took the town.

As the French withdrew from Spain, the Guards were actively involved in chasing them into France and, it was only until 1814 that they were finally called back to England.

The Coldstream Guards Fighting Napoleon at Waterloo

The Guards performed famously at Waterloo. It was their forced march that arrived at Quatre Bras and decisively turned that battle. Wellington then retreated to Waterloo and the Guards were given the pride of place position in the line, at the right of centre. Famously, this placed them on the farm at Hougoumont which they held after repeated ferocious attacks from the French. They suffered huge losses but were instrumental in holding Hougoumont and therefore defeating Napoleon Bonaparte.